The money Lacey Desserault pocketed Friday when her lamb, Squirley, was auctioned off helped ease a painful goodbye.
The 146-pound grand champion lamb was sold for $10 a pound at the annual 4-H and FFA Market Stock Sale. Lacey will use the money to help pay for college, she said.
Lacey, 14, of Prosser, has trained Squirley since May, she said. She won more awards at this year's Benton Franklin Fair & Rodeo with the 5-month-old lamb than any other she has trained in six years of showing animals.
"It takes a lot of responsibility training him," Lacey said. "It's pretty much like having a baby. Over the months I have had him, I have built a connection."
More than 100 people squeezed into metal bleachers Friday as dark rain clouds loomed over the all-day auction. Eager spotters awaited their bids. The auctioneer's voice boomed throughout the outside barn, which quickly became standing room only.
A total of 528 animals were auctioned off during the stock sale, raising more than $717,000, said Lance Dever, president of the Market Stock Committee. A majority of the lambs, swine, cattle, sheep and goats will be slaughtered.
Many of the animals are auctioned off at higher prices to support the showmen, who are between 9 and 18 years old, Dever said.
Taking home a hefty reward gives the showmen motivation to continue raising and training the animals, Dever said.
"This is their payday," he said. "4-H is set up for young producers. A lot of the kids use this money for their college educations. It really teaches them life skills."
Around 70 more animals were sold at this year's auction compared with 2012 , Dever said.
The floor prices -- 90 cents a pound for lamb, $1.22 for beef, 74 cents for pork and $1.05 for goat -- also were up from last year, Dever said.
It takes months of work to get the animals ready to be shown and sold, Dever said. Many showmen work with multiple animals. When one animal gets auctioned off, another is waiting to be shown.
"These kids have to do everything from shearing them, washing them and showing them just at the fair," Dever said. "A lot of it is generational, and we have kids whose whole families have shown (animals) here."
While it is a business for most, the connection many showmen have with their animals was apparent Friday.
Kolton Ginder-Mill, 15, of Finley, brushed his steer, named Jim Tom, as auction time approached.
He had mixed feelings about selling his 1,317-pound friend.
"He's like my little puppy dog," he said. "When you get him you become friends with him. You got to work up to the selling part."
The steer has been at Kolton's grandparents' farm since September. He decided to start showing animals after watching his sister show steers and horses, he said. His mother also showed hogs when she was in high school.
Kaycee Breazeale, 17, of Pasco, took a moment to herself before she auctioned off her 254-pound hog named KeeOkee, which was born in February.
"They do a lot of really cute things," Kaycee said. "He loves to have someone with him. He loves to give kisses."
Debbie Lopez of Pasco has to tell her daughters, who were showing at the fair, that the animals are not pets, she said.
But it's still hard to deal with when they wake up the morning after the auction and the animals are gone, Lopez said.
"The hard part is dealing with the tears," she said. "We try and prepare them, but they are still young. At least they come and take the sheep at night."
Kaycee agreed that it can be difficult to sell her animals, though the time she gets to spend with them and the reward she gets afterward are well worth it.
"It's a little sad," she said. "I live on a farm with a lot of animals and I am used to them getting slaughtered. At least they had a good life before."
w Tyler Richardson: 582-1556; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @Ty_richardson